Making connections through a lens - the Leeds project taking a closer look in our communities

Lens Lab Leeds is a creative research project that uses photography, video and sound in playful and original ways, led by photographer Jonathan Turner and artist Benedict Phillips.

By Alex Grant
Monday, 11th July 2022, 11:59 am

Based in Lincoln Green / Burmantofts, the project is marking its one-year anniversary with ‘Let’s Make Things’; a photography exhibition that spans the last twelve months.

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The featured images include a specially commissioned series working with LEEDS 2023 to capture the communities of Lincoln Green, Burmantofts & Mabgate, and more recently different multi faith spaces in Leeds.

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Based in Lincoln Green / Burmantofts, the project is marking its one-year anniversary with ‘Let’s Make Things’. Picture: Lens Lab Leeds.

Photography is a very accessible art form, it’s simple to engage with – we all do it all the time. It’s also the way that we can more immediately understand a story, a place, a community.

Through an image – whether that’s a still photo or film – we get a direct look at people and places that we may never have known or seen, but we can feel a connection.

We started Lens Lab Leeds a year ago to capture and connect with communities and that included working with LEEDS 2023 as they launched their campaign to ‘Let Culture Loose’ across the city.

We took our mobile darkroom out into the community where we took pictures of local people, using contemporary digital photography as well as an older, collodion wet plate process.

Photography is a very accessible art form, it’s simple to engage with. Picture: Lens Lab Leeds.

It was one way of bringing creativity into our community as well as a little bit of heritage with the analogue style photography.

Since then, we have been working on other projects that will also be part of the exhibition. Our most recent endeavour has seen us explore faith in Leeds by getting to know and collaborate with three of the the six main faith communities in the city through their buildings.

We hope to continue with this, and work with more faith communities in the coming year. It’s been a wonderful journey and conversation, full of mutual respect and giving us a fascinating insight into how each of these spaces, which include churches, mosques and synagogues, came into being, and how despite all being places of worship, they also play a unique role within their communities.

It's been such an honour to be welcomed into these spaces, we were able to access areas that people don’t normally get to go to, which is always an amazing privilege and we’ll be showing some of the photos we took there as well as some archive items from the buildings’ past.

We’ll also be debuting a sound piece we’ve been bringing together that features ten different people talking about the first time they visited their place of worship. These can be quite emotional as the individual talks about the moment, the situation that brought them there and the experience they had in the space.

Our communities have very special relationships to the faith buildings in their own neighbourhoods, they are places that bring people together, helping to grow a sensitivity to diversity, and to understand each other better.

We hope ‘Let’s Make Things’ encourages visitors to exchange and share ideas, to see how we can use creative research to bring us insight and continue conversations on how we can all help ‘Let Culture Loose’ across Leeds from now on.

‘Let’s Make Things’ opens at Lens Lab Leeds, MIR House 28 Cross Stamford Street, LS7 1BA from 11-15 July and is viewable by appointment only. Email [email protected] to book in.